Bringing It

Bringing It #122: Historical Legacies Of Mentorship At NC A&T And Beyond

June 20, 2024

Dear friends,

As we move into the summer months, we’re happy to report that the Paradigm Project has made great strides forward. We’re bringing together changemakers to do the hard work of changing the narrative around higher education. Just this month, we’ve launched a network of nearly 75 individual changemakers across institutions, locales, and university positions.  One such changemaker is Jelani M. Favors of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T). Today’s Bringing It spotlights the incredible work that Dr. Favors is pursuing for the preservation of democracy, legacy of Black mentorship and activism, and a culture of community at not just NC A&T, but all HBCUs.

Dr. Favors and NC A&T’s Center of Excellence for Social Justice

Dr. Favors is the Henry E. Frye Distinguished Professor of History and the Director of NC A&T’s new Center of Excellence for Social Justice. His research and academic work focuses on Black colleges and universities as centers for activism and social justice. His book, Shelter in a Time of Storm: How Black Colleges Fostered Generations of Leadership and Activism, narrates the history of Black colleges as incubators for social change and received numerous honors including the 2020 Stone Book Award and the 2020 Lillian Smith Book Award. Favors’ impressive scholarship has prepared him to lead at NC A&T and beyond. Favors says that his work is about “documenting the story of how”–now, his leadership at NC A&T will position him to put the “how” into action himself.

“Black colleges were really brought about by relationships–mentoring relationships, radical mentoring relationships,” says Favors. It is these meaningful relationships that are not just the foundation for all HBCUs, but also the fuel that brought Favors back to his alma mater to lead. Black colleges and universities position students, faculty, and administrators to, as Favors says, “work together in that crucible, in that factory of dissent. They [are]n’t being trained just in basic curriculum, they [are] given a second curriculum.” This second curriculum–an ethos that permeates the institution to give Black students a voice, and the history to interrogate their society–is essential to an HBCU education. The second curriculum also gives students, “weapons against a white supremacist and patriarchal society.” It is mentors that pass down these vital tools of advocacy–history, scholarship, language of dissent, and more. Favors seeks to make the Center of Excellence for Social Justice the incubator of these active and activist relationships. By passing down “intellectual ammunition,” mentors will give students the tools to deconstruct racist ideals that uphold traditional higher education.

As he conceived the idea of the second curriculum, Favors consulted a great deal of historic student newspapers. He found that students were constantly writing about and drilling their peers and mentors on the ideals of citizenship and democracy, emboldened by the potential of a better future. He says, “when you look at the legacy of HBCUs, idealism is a major component…you see students dreaming, empowered by what can be…even though they were denied the right to vote (violently so), and citizenship (violently so), they still thought of ways to press and interrogate the great American paradox- ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” By reinforcing the ideals of democracy in the rich community and historical context of HBCUs, faculty and administrators can expose students to what it means to be a civic actor. They can also reinforce the imaginative capacity necessary for activism–fighting for equitable futures first involves imagining them.

Favors’ plans do not stop at NC A&T. Favors is in the process of creating programming for a national Democracy Day, across all HBCUs. By bringing in speakers, having important dialogues, and connecting across campuses, Favors hopes to simply “elevate the discourse.” However, the impact of this event will be far greater than simple elevation. Favors intends to lean back into the radical history of HBCUs, so these institutions can expose students to the importance of why democracy matters–then, and now. By leaning on history, HBCU leaders can illustrate the power of democracy to craft a better tomorrow. With hope at the core, Democracy Day will illustrate to students why their voices matter, especially now.

Dr. Favors’ work adds to the inspirational activism and civic education of HBCUs across the nation. Common Cause North Carolina has created an HBCU Student Action Alliance which trains Democracy Fellows to organize campaigns at their institutions, local governments, and beyond. Just a few weeks ago, Howard University held the Du Bois Data Lab for HBCU Journalism Students, which introduced journalism students to data, design, and coding tools meant to enhance the impact of their stories–a pivotal education in having their voices heard. Keep your eye on Bringing It–we will continue to share stories of democracy and the model of HBCUs in centering activism, idealism, and change.

Imagining America Announces Call Process for its New Host Institution

Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life (IA), a vibrant consortium of 70 higher ed members and cultural partners, is excited to announce the opportunity to become its next host institution in 2027. Following founding years at the University of Michigan, a ten-year term at Syracuse University, and what will soon be ten years at the University of California, Davis, IA has begun the search for a new campus home. This transition is part of an intentional cycle for higher education institutions to host IA for five-year, once renewable terms. Hosting IA is an exciting opportunity to become a national hub in connecting and convening higher education institutions committed to public and engaged scholarship,

You can learn more about the process, timeline, and FAQs by visiting the IA Transition webpage for full information. IA leadership also warmly invites anyone interested about the transition to register for the online information session on July 16, 2024 at 4pm EST (3pm CT, 1:00pm PST). A second Information Session will be held in October.

BT2P’s Paul Schadewald ([email protected]) is IA’s current National Advisory Board Chair. You can also reach out to him with questions and conversations.

With thanks for you and all you do,

David, Gianna, Gillian, Kate, Paul, and Todd

Bringing Theory to Practice
Elon University